How to Address an Employment Gap

Thelisa LavergneA gap in employment is no longer something to be ashamed of or something that you want to avoid during your job search, especially in the interview. Keep in mind that it’s okay to have one or more gaps in your employment history and that employers are aware. You are not the first person who has had to take time off work, and you won’t be the last. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the vast majority of people, 90%, have been unemployed at some point in their working lives. Nevertheless, how should you explain a gap in your employment history during an interview?

So, what is a gap in employment? An employment gap, obviously, is a period of months or years when a job applicant was not employed at a job. Again, the important thing to remember is that a gap in employment is okay and does not prevent anyone from getting a job. Furthermore, keep in mind that the majority of the time that a person is unable to work it is for a legitimate and practical reason.

While one or more gaps in employment can seem daunting, there are effective ways to address these issues during the job search process that minimize the risk of losing a job opportunity. If your resume or application reveals any gaps in employment, expect hiring managers to inquire during the interview. The best tip by far is to enter the interview prepared to master the explanation about your gap in employment!

When it comes to explaining an employment challenge, we often say too much or too little. Here are some tips to answer the question, “What have you been up to?” during the interview process.

  1. Offer an explanation – Explain why you took time off from the workforce, but don’t overshare, make sure that you are explaining and not justifying.
  2. Focus on skills, knowledge and abilities – Stay focused on your skills and how they match the skills for the job
  3. Highlight new skills – What did you do while you were unemployed? Did you freelance or consult? How about volunteering? All those experiences count as work and can be included on your resume. List them as you would list your other jobs – with job title, company name, job description, and dates of employment. If you took a class, you could list that in the education section of your resume.
  4. Explain why now is the time to return to work – The best approach is usually to address the issue in a direct and forthright manner. Provide a clear rationale for taking time off if the break was voluntary. If you took time off to deal with a particular issue like caring for a sick relative or completing coursework and are ready to return to full-time employment, make it clear that the reason for your time off from the workforce has been resolved.
  5. Be confident – Finally, exude enthusiasm and confidence for returning to work and make a very strong case for why your target job would be exciting for you and an excellent fit.

For more on this and other labor market information, please visit Workforce Solutions.

How to Explain Employment Gaps in an Interview, Indeed Career Guide, 2019

Thelisa Lavergne is a member of the Regional (Texas Gulf Coast) Navigator team for Workforce Solutions. She specializes in providing training and education to the Gulf Coast community, career staff offices, and employers in assisting individuals with disabilities. She brings with her over 10 years of experience and expertise working in the nonprofit industry serving Houston’s disadvantaged community; individuals and families experiencing homelessness, victims of domestic abuse, and individuals and families experiencing hunger. However, her greatest contribution to Workforce Solutions is her compassion, commitment, and dedication to serving others. She holds a M.A. in Organizational Management, a B.S. in Training and Development, B.S. in Counseling, and a Certification as a Personal Fitness Trainer.

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